and to all a good night

IMG_5786Yesterday I went for a pre-Christmas haircut with a picture of Jessica Biel jammed into my purse. I walked out with a curly bob, and a free sample of Aveda hand cream, but I did not look like Jessica Biel. I had Aveda lipstick applied to my rather thin lips. Jessica Biel also has rather thin lips but there’s where the similarities end.

Before my appointment, I showed my husband the picture of Jessica Biel, and he widened his eyes and nodded too vigourously. I informed him that he looked nothing like Justin Timberlake either before I walked out the door.

I go to a salon that was very popular with my punk rock friends in the 80s. Thirty years later, it is a bit run down. There are scuffs on the walls and the lights are too bright. I persist in going there because the young lady there is still apprenticing, and she’s cheaper than most. I had vowed never to spend $400 on a cut and colour (yes I somehow, unwittingly, paid that much for a haircut on a prairie town in northern Canada). Also, she wisely doesn’t try to engage me in inane chit chat while she’s yanking on my hair putting foils in. I close my eyes and pretend I’m at the spa getting a hearty head massage. I can hear snippets of conversation around me, and they are ridiculous: one woman talking about how her mother comes into her home and rearranges her shoes into shoe boxes underneath her bed. Someone else giving too much information about potty training her three year old. Another woman loudly announcing she’s a journalist with CBC and she specializes in crime. On her way out, she speaks to another woman she calls ‘Madame Justice.’ Someone else is bragging about her holiday in Puerto Vallarta.

I like my stylist not only because she’s cheap and quiet, but because she remembers details about me and I don’t have to re-answer questions every time I come. She knows my eldest son is a drummer and lives in LA. She remembers my daughter works in a bakery, and that we have a young son who still believes in Santa Claus. I’m positive I’m the same age as as her own mother, as she’s only 20. She has perfectly manicured fingernails, decorated with impressive multicoloured graphic designs.

On my way out, a young man with long curly hair comes in. He seems known to the stylists and exchanges Christmas greetings and hugs. He has a black tuque perched on his head, and he reminds me of my eldest boy. I smile at him and look away, a stinging tear creeping into my eye, thinking of my far-flung child.  ‘He’s not cutting his gorgeous hair off?’ I said to the young lady who accompanies him. ‘No’ she says, ‘Just a trim’. ‘Good,’ I reply, relieved.

This is the first year that I will not have all of my kids with me at Christmas. The drummer is staying in LA and having dinner with his girlfriend’s brother’s place. So many people have asked me if he was coming home that I realized I should have offered him a plane ticket back for the holidays. But I honestly had not considered it, I say with a stab of regret. (Insert bad mom judgements here). I mailed him a heavy package of books and an envelope stuffed with American cash, but no plane ticket. I assumed he was spending it with the woman he lives with, immersed in his new sunny, but gritty, LA life. And so he is.

I’m thankful that my daughter is coming over late Christmas Eve with her boyfriend and kitten so they can wake up Christmas morning and open their coveted stockings. I did not get the kitten a stocking, but I did get the kitten a gift. I cannot resist the their furry baby; she is so cute.

I will make them fake cinnamon buns and I will happily drink strong coffee and eat eggs and lox. We take turns opening presents, from youngest to oldest. Our youngest hands out the presents, and very slowly unwraps each of his, delighting in the whole process and insisting on playing with each gift before he will open the next one. It can take us the entire morning to finish emptying out the bottom of the tree.

I have been hoarding New York Times newspapers to read, and bought myself two books to put under the tree. My favourite thing is sitting on our red couch in front of our (fake) fire and devouring Christmas reading. People seem fearful of buying me books, so I buy my own. Everybody disperses, reclining around the house. Sometimes we play the movie Elf, where the Will Ferrell character (Elf) reminds me of our youngest boy: head-strong, pure, full of silly and love.

Eventually some cooking starts. Without my first-born vegetarian son here, we will go full carnivore, with Mundare sausage and a huge leg of lamb which I’m not sure will even fit in the oven. A child has requested a carrot cake, which I will bake today, which is Christmas Eve. I ran all over town yesterday searching for marscapone cheese. Since when is marscapone an exotic ingredient? I live in a limited city.

We will set the table and light the candles. Maybe I will say a few words about absent children. We will dig into a mostly beige menu (lamb, mashed potatoes, a requested hashbrowns and mushroom soup recipe), carrots and parsnips in maple syrup (the only way I can choke them down) and broccoli with toasted sesame seeds for some green.

I will hopefully disappear upstairs for a hot bath and not have to do dishes. I will email my boy in hopes he emails back, which he sometimes does. Everybody will retire early because it has been a long day.

The next day we will go for Dim Sum with our old neighbours. We’ve been doing this now for six years, so I think it is now officially a tradition. There’s nothing like greasy Chinese breakfast after a day of overeating. We will wait for shrimp dumplings and sticky rice to come around on the little carts, read our Chinese horoscopes on the placemats and laugh with the ladies as we turn down chicken feet. Sometimes the girls from dim sum will go out to a ‘chick’ movie. One year we saw ‘Marley and Me’ and bawled our eyes out, even though I don’t even like dogs. This year we are seeing ‘Wild’, which was a fine book, so I have high expectations for the film.

We are then finished with our Christmas traditions. New Years seems overwrought and we can never find a sitter. So we will sit at home and try to stay up until midnight watching bad musical countdown specials on TV and drinking old fashioneds and amaretto sours. We bid good night to each other, calling cheerily, ‘see you next year!’ We will tuck 2014 into bed one last time, and wake up too early, generally a bit hungover, to face the new year.

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